Tied to the whipping post

By Christopher Cudworth

dscn9203.jpgThe Sirius XM Classic Rock channel blaring through my speakers last night featured a song by the Allman Brothers titled “Whipping Post.” That song is technically about the songwriter’s mistreatment by a woman who is unfaithful to the point of emotional pain. He draws the comparison between repeated “whippings” by his gal to being flogged by a whip.

That metaphorical use of a whipping post surely grabs one attention. The idea of being tied up and beaten bloody is not an appetizing thought. In fact the Starz cable series The Outlander recently featured a scene in which a Scottish rebel is beaten bloody to the point of flesh flying away from his back. The beating is administered by a sadistic British officer trying to exact punishment and extract confession of disloyalty to the English king.

It doesn’t work. The Scottish lad refuses to emit a cry even when his back is lacerated to strips and flaps of flesh hanging from his back.

In a telling moment during the episode a British officer responsible for the brutal whipping admits that he lost control both in the moment and in his overall life. His resent for being sent to Scotland––where he considers the people “savages”––give hims a sense of jjustification for administering punishment to whomever he pleases. He also admits it pleases him to do so. “He was my masterpiece,” the officer said of his flaying brutality.

The same sort of angry isolation from reality takes over another character in the HBO Series “Rome,” in which Emperor Octavius clenches the hand of his servant, soon to be bride. As she winces in pain, he coos to her that he enjoys giving others pain. “It gives me sexual pleasure,” he murmurs. She marries the man anyway. His power is too attractive to ignore.

Example of Christ

In the bible we encounter a man who refuses to give in to flogging and crucifixion. Even knowing that he faced likely torture, humiliation and death, the man we know as Jesus held his tongue except to affirm that his mission was pure.

These extremes in punishment turn our stomachs and at times force us to turn our eyes. Yet for purposes of edification the next movie I plan to watch is “12 Years a Slave.” The plot deals with slavery, injustice and freedom. But the violence will surely illustrate the extremes to which people seeking to force and control the behavior of others will go.

Modern punishments

All these elements of punishment, pain and abuse seem to be coming together in the public eye of late. The video of the NFL playing knocking his companion unconscious with a blow of the fist has set off debate about domestic violence. Then another football player was called to account for whipping his child with a switch to the point where the bruise marks were visibly evident on the child’s skin.

I have been that child. My mother used to use a switch on us for discipline. She used a brush as well when the switch was not handy. I’m pretty sure she did not enjoy whipping us kids for being bad. She was trying to keep unruly kids in line. That was the philosophy in those days.

Corporal punishment

But I’m not so sure about the teachers at our public school who used paddles to spank kids who were deemed to be misbehaving. I had my pants dropped in the hallway and was spanked on my bare buttocks by a first grade teacher. That scared the hell out of me, but it did not really teach me what I’d done wrong, or how. That was left for me to figure out on my own. All I knew at the time was that I’d crossed some line and that she owned all the authority.

Authority played a big role in those days. You were taught to mind authority no matter what. My father did not like being questioned or ignored, especially when it came to matters of authority. He punished us physically, but not always for reasons that were discernible.

I watched him thrash my two brothers in the kitchen of our house. The beating reduced me to painful tears because I loved my brothers. That instance set up an emotional foundation that could not be easily erased. The following week at school when my best friend got paddled for something he did on the playground, I collapsed in tears while clinging to my first grade teacher’s side. She questioned me at that moment why I was so upset about my friend being hit. She sensed there was something more going on. But that did not mean there was any reconciliation.

The Fighter

The trauma of those beatings turned me into a fighter. I fought my way through sixth grade in fact. Fought my way through a line of adversaries all the way to the neighborhood bully who finally challenged me to a fight to be held in the deep end of the country club pool which whose water was emptied for the winter.

An older friend heard me bragging about the upcoming fight and told me that he was going to go in his place. He met up with the bully who pulled a knife and threatened to stab my friend. Fortunately he knocked the knife from his hand and proceeded to pummel the kid’s face until blood stained the entire front of my friend’s shirt.

When he came back from the fight he grabbed me by the collar and told me, “No more fighting for you.” And with one or two exceptions, after that I was cured of the need to fight.

The Athlete

I funneled my deep-seated anger into sports instead. The rage served me well in competitive situations. But deep down there was a conflicting emotional base that was fragile and fearful. There was no real self confidence or (God Forbid) self esteem behind the bravado and aggression.

Coaches loved to tap that aggression and on many occasions it would work in the short term. But real success comes from confidence built on hard work and affirmation. It’s possible to guide and correct behavior without beating it into someone. One can even tolerate pain and suffering in the name of a cause without having your teeth kicked in to make you want to give your all.

The insane levels to which some coaches, leaders and parents feel they need to go to motivate their charges is evidenced by this quick anecdote told to me in person by former pro football player and Ohio Buckeye Doug Plank. “I followed Jack Lambert at Ohio State and he was one of the hardest hitting players ever to go through that system. I was middle linebacker too, and one day I hit a guy so hard it knocked me unconscious. I was lying there and when I woke up Coach Woody Hayes had his face right in mine, and he screamed, ‘YOU SHOULD HAVE HIT HIM HARDER!”

That kind of punishment is what the NFLis essentially based upon as a tradition. Hundreds of players suffer debilitating lifelong illnesses and conditions due to their time on the field. Some suffered multiple or untreated concussions. In some cases like David Duerson and Junior Seau, the brain injuries have led to mental illness and ultimate suicide.

Michael Vick

Who can forget the very public disgracing of the NFL player indicted for the cruel hobby of dog fighting? His career was rehabilitated in the eyes of many. To others he remains the symbol or everything that is wrong with pro sports. The power of money and performance forgives all.

The NFL has admitted at some level there is a cost to playing pro football. The league gave up millions in a settlement to its former players. It was an admission that the physical and mental punishment of competing at that level with giants on the field and human beings inside those highly trained bodies is a formula for destruction.

Yet the paying public continues to eat it up.  There’s all that weekly excitement over “big hits” and taking out the quarterback. At times even the ugly injuries that stem from pro sports are played in endless loops. Broken legs make good copy.

The Arena

It’s really not much different that the crowd at a public event like gladiatorial contests or the public whipping of a criminal. People with a lust for violence and action will get it vicariously if they can’t mete is out on their own. Never mind that the very lives of many NFL players are being destroyed by a violent sport, and that kids all the way down to five years old are at risk of those same injuries. It’s copycat violence. “Go make us proud, son. Knock him on his ass.”

Of course all sports have an element of risk. But when the issue of that risk is not only ignored but obscured in the name of power, money and entertainment, there is a risk to all of society absorbing that violence.

Role Models

The fact that we also look to pro athletes as role models doubles that gamble. Their personal failures represent a downward swirling whirlpool of perception for society. It’s depressing when our heroes fail. Yet we discard them and move on to someone else for our heroics. We spank them publicly and expect them to behave again. When they don’t, they are disowned. Banished from our thoughts. They’re really products of an entire system that squeezes athletes for their talents while essentially failing them as human beings.

Consider the perversion of pro sports as a meat market. The idea that athletes can be ‘traded’ or ‘sold’ is essentially demeaning. They are commodities, and little more. This dehumanizing aspect of professional sports is only counteracted by the fact that so many pro athletes experience the same flaws as the rest of us.

This includes beating their kids, making dogs fight each other and abusing their wives. Welcome to America, fellas. That’s how we’ve always done it. Your lives are just a little more public. So we must face the fact that the very acts of violence, crime and abuse committed by pro athletes are simply responses to the lack of perspective that life offers them.

Need for change 

So where is the potential for change going to come from? Certainly not the NFL, which Yet perceives itself as a tornado sweeping away all other sports in its path. The aggressive marketing of pro football now takes place 12 months a year. The league acts like a spoiled child, always demanding attention.

And therein lies both the irony and the solution of all this public whipping and whether it’s right or wrong to spoil the child. It’s as if we’re all tied to the whipping post and the NFL is doing the whipping. We’re actually afraid to pull back or cry out for fear of being the one called too weak to survive the competition of life, or worse, to be branded “un-American” for not loving “America’s Game.” Why else would there be such an anti-soccer backlash, which calls itself the “world’s game” if those who jingoistically brand American football as the better sport?

Those dealing out the punishment simply refuse to back off for fear of losing their grip like the British officer forced to relish his punishment in order to survive the ordeal of his own disenfranchisement and loneliness.

Spare the Rod? 

Sadly, people even recruit the biblical reference to Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child to justify the administration of violence from the earliest age. We hear people using that one line from the bible as if it were sufficient to justify all sorts of punishment. Because if it’s okay to beat a child with a switch, it must be okay to bash the heads of those we oppose. We see evidence of this smashmouth mentality everywhere in society, especially in politics where politicians without conscience bark about the finer points of human values while trying to beat the piss out of their political adversaries.

Punishers and the punished

It’s a horrific cycle of punishers and the punished that we’ve created. Those who pull away or try to lend rational perspective to the issue of institutionalized violence are branded as ‘weak’ in their constitution or ‘too liberal’ in their parenting ands tastes in public media, sports and religion.

So we blithely pass gun laws that make it legal to pack weapons nearly everywhere we go.  We root for sports that destroy the very lives of the athletes who play them and then wonder why those athletes cannot behave like saints in the cathedral of sports.

We’re all tied to the whipping post unless someone has the courage to stand up and say “Stop, that’s enough.”

Scars and forgiveness

Those of us who lived that reality in a very physical way know that the scars of punishment without rational foundation take a long time to heal. It takes real work and possibly the heaviest dose of forgiveness possible to work past the bitterness and anger that takes hold in the heart of those punished.

We also recognize those violent tendencies in others more readily than most. We refuse to vote for those with an angry bent and barely disguised desire for absolute control. Those are the most dangerous people of all. Those who refuse even to be questioned for the motivations behind their behavior, such as the NFL, the cigarette companies or the polluters of our rivers and streams. Politicians who war profiteer and angry talk show hosts who profit from fomenting dissent without providing solutions. The NRA with its All Guns At All Costs Philosophy, and the very rich who begrudge the working class even the respect for its labor.

These are the people who want you tied to the whipping post. Jesus Christ warned us that this was the real decay of society. It was not the so-called rabble of the streets whose sins harmed almost no one, and whose constitutions and orientations would come to be better understood in the true light of day, thanks to history, biology and genetics.

They are not the enemy here. They are not the ones tying the arms of the innocent to the whipping post. The lash you feel on your back is the force of authority without cause. That is the lesson of the modern conundrum. How to let the weak be heard, and not be afraid to listen.

genesiscover1.jpg

The seemingly unavoidable politicization of the 9/11 tragedy

By Christopher Cudworth

FlagWaiverMore than 3000 people died when the World Trade Center towers crashed straight down into the ground. Conspiracy theories aside, the events of that day were surreal enough on their own.

We remember where we were when the images first came to us on TV screens. I stood in my living room before work wondering just what I was watching. Then I called my boss to let him know that I was concerned about my kids in school. Natural, normal responses to tragedy unfolding.

When it was all through and the skies were silent above Illinois and everywhere else in America, it was evident things were about to change in America. But how?

Then came our government’s response to the 9/11 attacks. Loud, angry words were spoken by our President George W. Bush. Yet he seemed as perplexed as he was determined about the events unfolding on his watch.

At the time, claims were made that we could never have seen it all coming. But then it came out that administrative insiders and advisors to the President had indeed warned that terrorists were planning a strike, possibly by flying planes into buildings.

For a focused set of reasons, those warnings had either been ignored or dismissed, or both. It has been theorized and then proven unequivocably that the Bush administration had a game plan for an attack and invasion of Iraq. Those goals were established and clear before the 9/11 attacks even occurred.

It was the opposite of wagging the dog. The tails wagging in Washington were those happy that they now had a ready-made excuse to carry out their plans for a takeover in Iraq. The goal was also to kill or remove Saddam Hussein.

Linking these goals to the fight against terrorism was easy enough. Play on the fears of average Americans and don’t give them too much information. Just enough to scare the daylights out of them. Playing up the risks of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq was the key. So they went with that, and American people largely bought it despite the work of International inspectors who informed the world there were not WMDs.

To sell the story the Bush administration paraded General Colin Powell before the nation and simultaneously dumped cooked up intelligence in the laps of Senators and Congressman longing for answers about America’s true risks on the world stage. They all lent their authority to go to war because America was essentially in a state of perpetual panic.

A very few resolute and rational voices could barely be heard above the warmongering. Men like John Kerry stated that all we needed was a police action in the country to help keep terrorism at bay. Use the international community to secure good intelligence. Everyone is on our side…

Bush and Company would have none of that touchy-feely stuff. They wanted to hit someone and hit them hard. The perpetrator of 9/11, Osama bin Laden, had been allowed to slip out of our grasp on Afghanistan despite big bombs and boots on the ground.

The blood that would spill in his place would be that of American soldiers messing around in a destabilized Iraq. Our patriotic young men and women enter the theater of war without question. That is their job. Never mind the politics. They signed up to fight if needed and fight they would.

4000 soldiers died in those years of fighting in Iraqi. Thousands more sustained lifelong injuries.

Yet we hid those war dead when they were brought home in caskets. We hid the money thrown at shady partners eager to take American dollars in exchange for intelligence. Entire pallets of money went missing. Lost to who know who? We even hid the true costs of the war outside the budgeting process by which American government is supposed to conduct itself in terms of accountability.

The whole venture in Iraq was a tortuous journey of conservative ideology gone bad. We were supposed to be welcomed as liberators and were not. We were supposed to be out of Iraq in a year or so, and were not. We were supposed to behave like true Americans engaged in democratic nation-building and instead we tortured and persecuted our captives in shameful ways.

All of this occurred under the watch of a President who claimed during his campaign that he would clean up government and somehow run a better ship than his predecessor Bill Clinton.

It would be more than a decade later that President Barack Obama would order the strike that took out Osama bin Laden. It was necessary because during his term as President George W. Bush admitted that he just didn’t think about Osama bin Laden much. Not anymore.

Cleaning up the mess made by Bush in Iraq and the Middle East has not been possible in more than 13 years since the 9/11 tragedy led to our misdirection of funds and warmongering that was the war in Iraq. The new method of the conservative right is to place the blame for conditions of Iraq on the shoulders of Obama. They blame him for pulling our troops out of the country. They claim that has led to further destabilization and even the rise of new types of terrorists in ISIS, the Islamic State nutballs who emerged as a new nemesis for the United States.

But those of us who never bought the lines doled out by Bush and Company do not readily buy the new threats being issued about ISIS by the Obama administration either. We don’t let terror warnings overwhelm our greater sense of purpose and true and honest patriotism. Not jingoism. Not war for religion or Bush’s daddy’s honor. On top of the ideological, political motivations of the Bush crew, all those other reasons for war were heaped on the pile. All that was surreal as well.

Rather than politicize our current threats, we expect instead that our President and his advisors will act to deter those  specific threats and not turn them into an excuse to carry out some unrelated and perhaps dangerously political agenda because of some trumped up notion that some thinktank version of political theory is better than clear-eyed pragmatism.

If Obama leads us off course in that regard, chasing some doctrine about which the rest of us know nothing about, he deserves the same order of disdain as George W. Bush. There was no excuse for the way that President behaved in office. None at all. Not even 9/11 gave him and Dick Cheney to run off with our resources and our military in pursuit of revenge and oil and some notion that America automatically harbors a higher world order.

Yes, the threats we face in the world are real. 9/11 taught us that. But the response to those threats is what really counts. Lying about the reasons to go to war is no way to conduct America’s business. The real tragedy of 9/11 was not just that thousands of people died, but that the politicization of that tragedy seemed unavoidable.

We should do everything possible to ensure that we don’t make those kinds of mistakes again. Because it’s apparent that there are also other forces within and outside our government, including those in the CIA and other agencies that ran off with Reagan’s legacy in the Iran-Contra affairs, that care not what the American people really think.

This is not about partisan politics at all. This is about finding ways to protect America from itself, and finding ways to stop those who would act on their own accord but not respectfully on our behalf. We’ve been down that path a few times now. The silent skies above America after 9/11 should have given us pause and time to think. What is all this noise really about? Can we even hear ourselves think when the wings or war come roaring overhead?

Why believe in God?

By Christopher Cudworth

The massive level of statistics kept on professional sports are indicators. They point out patterns of success and failure. In professional baseball every strike or ball pitch, fielding error, hit, RBI and home run is carefully chronicled to the annals of the sport. 

All those statistics enable baseball historians to draw comparisons between current players and those who played baseball in the past. This obsession with minutiae has only grown with the addition of speed guns for pitchers and other technology that produces new measurements of the game. 

The same goes for shot charts in basketball, punt stats in football and possession time in soccer. Every sport has it measurements and fans of each sport analyze them with furious devotion. 

Keeping track

platetectonics1Science also has its statistics. Thanks to very precise measurements of magnetic patterns on the world’s sea floors, we now know how the continents move across the surface of the earth. The theory of plate tectonics traces millions of clues to the basic fact that South America was once connected as a land form to Africa. The shapes are obvious by studying any sort of globe, but until recently there was no way to understand or explain how our continents pulled apart and moved across the surface of the earth. 

Things like that take a long time to occur. The movement of an entire continent amounts to less than fractions of an inch per year. The earth is patient and persistent. The matrix that drives it all depends on heat convections from the molten core of the earth that push to the surface in identifiable ways. That is volcanism, which is both a creative and destructive force on this planet. 

Creation and destruction

Creative and destructive forces are always at play. That is why so many people love the intense passion of sports. One team wins and one team loses. Entire seasons can hinge on one play. Statistics are kept to determine when the turning points occurred. The furious pace of hockey with its crashing violence and speed, bulleted pucks and sudden goals is like a compressed form of plate tectonics. Call it life tectonics if you will. 

LoveandEmotionalPain

If you draw a line with love at one end and emotional pain at the other, the range of human emotion always fits somewhere on the scale. Emotional pain is that state of mind where loss, worry and defeat reside. We seek to avoid that state of mind at almost any cost. At the other end of the spectrum is love, where joy, acceptance and bliss reside. We seek love in many ways, from personal relationships to religion. Love is the ultimate expression of positive human emotion. 

Love and pain

These two extremes, love and emotional pain, are very real phenomenon in human existence. To deny someone the reality that emotional pain is real is to deny their existence. Indeed, the worst crimes in human history focus on creating emotional pain so deep and dismissive we can only call them evil. The Holocaust sought to inflict emotional pain on Jewish people to the point where the goal was to eliminate their very existence on this earth. The emotional pain of those events remains with us in this world. People who seek to deny that the Holocaust ever happened exhibit the same psychopathy that enabled such terror and murder to occur in the first place. 

Indeed, psychopaths are known for their patent lack of concern for the emotions of other human beings. Psychopathy or sociopathy are destructive forms of selfish behavior even to the point where acts of murder, genocide and manipulation of truth and wisdom for self-gain are a matter of obsession. To characterize this behavior, the Bible relates the most infernal psychopath of all, Satan, as having the ability to manipulate even God’s words to his own benefits.  

When Satan appears in the form of a talking serpent very early on in the Bible, the epitome of all evil behaves like a true psychopath, manipulating Eve by challenging her into questioning the word of God…  

Genesis 3 [Full Chapter]

[ The Fall ] Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LordGod had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” …
 
But the Serpent was persistent to the point of destruction. 
 
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
 

Christianity is not entirely clear on what the "serpent" really is, or looks like. So how can we take such a creation story literally?

That exchange is the characterized as the beginning of the Fall of Man. It sets the stage for the advent of sin in the world, which is separation from God. And so we discover the first scriptural evidence that emotional pain is real. All human pain hinges on these types of emotions. We ache and grieve when a loved one dies. We cry and moan over lost love. We worry over financial and material survival and mourn when the economy crashes and the world seems to be caving in around us. All these forms of emotional pain are credited by the Bible to the Fall of Man and the existence of sin in the world. 

 
Salvation
 
People who seek salvation from emotional pain find comfort in the notion that a love exists (and is real) that can deliver us from the pain of earthly existence. We characterize this love as God. The Bible shows God in creative wisdom and also a God who destroys at will. He even destroys his own son.
 
That moment when Jesus is shown confronting mortality in the Garden of Gethsemane (much like the Garden of Eden) is telling in its revelation about the reality of emotional pain. 

Matthew 26:36-46 [Full Chapter]

[ Gethsemane ] Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” …
 
Of course his disciples fall asleep. Jesus is thus left isolated and alone in his fear and grief. This passage characterizes the frightening solitude of confrontations with emotional pain. Perhaps we never feel more real and yet more alone than those moments when emotional pain overwhelms our hope. 
 
Jesus turns to prayer to assuage his deep isolation. His thoughts are recorded as being directed to God, even asking for deliverance if possible from the horrid passage through pain and humiliation he senses in the next hours. Then he is taken into captivity––another form of emotional pain––and beaten, mocked, tried falsely and crucified. Things really don’t get much worse than that in human existence. 
 
Acts of love
 
Yet the will to endure all that emotional and physical pain is ultimately an act of love. The sacrifice of that one man symbolizes the cogent acknowledgement that emotional pain is real in this world. By example the Bible shows what it means both to suffer and to sacrifice, and to do it for love. 
 
Think about that for a moment. We would do nearly anything for the people we truly love. The associations and attachments and deep need that stems from love as a human emotion are so strong that the bonds formed from love frequently can’t be broken even when emotional pain wedges its way into our existence, tearing at our hope to the point where it seems impossible to carry on. 
 
We marry for these reasons, to fortify our love in bonds that are manifested through a pledge of loyalty even unto death. We see these bonds acted upon in nature in pairs and groups that provide safety and assurance to individuals. That is how it has always been through the annals of time. As we’ve grown in knowledge about the genetics of the human race, we’ve expanded our definitions of human bonds between races and even genders as true expressions of love. 
 
In fact we call our own lineage and emotional expression “human nature” to describe that baseline set of needs and personality that comes through in all people. Our understanding of the human animal has grown through science to the point where we now know that the human race is fused through DNA with all other living things. We share a common ancestry even if people love to deny it and try to discredit the process of evolution that has produced us all.
 
Evolution and God
 
Like God, evolution is both a creative and destructive force in this world. We know that 99% of all living things that ever existed on this earth are now extinct. In essence, the flood of change and perpetuity that is evolution has wiped out all but a fraction of life on earth. And yet that diversity is so complex and manifold that we struggle to express it in one narrative. It seems the story of Noah and the animals on the ark is more real when we recognize these facts of life. Our present day earth is an ark in space and time. 
 
IMG_6349That which has emerged and thrives on this planet is ours to study and comprehend for meaning. The Bible itself depends on this organic fundamentalism, that all the earth is symbolic of God’s creative and destructive powers. It is for us to respect and sustain this world for as long as we are here. To do otherwise is to play fast and loose with God’s will, and we don’t really want to do that. That’s a gamble. 
 
Some people want to force God’s hand in all this, seeking to essentially bring about the end of the world to confirm their belief that God is all powerful. Others simply don’t believe human beings have any influence in this world, that it is just too big for mankind to affect. They deny any possibility of anthropogenic influence on our planet’s climate. They maintain that global warming caused by human pollution of the atmosphere is possible. But how ironic is that! Many of the same people willingly accept that Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, yet can’t conceive how that human sin might lead to a planet compromised by human activity.
 
Hard questions
 
One must question whether people in that level of deep denial really believe in God at all. Perhaps their own motivations; greed, pride or selfish worldviews combine to eclipse the very real connections between human actions and defiant abuse of God’s creation.
 
True believers get the real connections between human foibles and despoilation of creation. They also get that emotional pain stems from a ruined planet. It causes human suffering. It is the absence of love for creation. It is a disrespectful and even psychopathic view toward this world upon which we depend for survival.
 
So the answer to the question, “Why believe in God?” is that our concept of God encompasses both the reality of our emotional existence and the acknowledgement that the creative forces at work in this world can also quickly turn to destruction if we do not have some tool to comprehend our very emotional connection to our material existence. God is the opposite of psychopathy. God is the source of creativity. God is a source of comprehension of the reality of human emotion. God is love. And that’s enough for all of us. 
 
 

There’s a bumper crop of hatred out there

By Christopher Cudworth

Fire HydrantOn my way to a business networking meeting this morning I took a shortcut through the neighborhood where I’d recently been hired to paint a fire hydrant for a community contest. The gentleman that paid me for the gig called to let me know that the fire hydrant I’d painted was one of the utilities scheduled for replacement. That meant the old fire hydrant was torn out and a new one installed. 

As I parked my car to take an iPhone picture of the new hydrant, the headlights of another car appeared in my rear view mirror. I snapped the photo as quickly as I could since I was parked in the middle of the street. Before I could put the phone away the vehicle behind me came ripping past at about 30 mph headed for Route 38 two blocks ahead. 

His vehicle got stopped by passing traffic. As I rolled up behind him at the intersection, the image on the bumper of his car caught my eye. It featured one of those bratty looking little kids taking a piss. The object of his aim was hard to read at first in the early light, but I held up my camera and tried to take a photo anyway. In light press-on letters the words FAGGOTS, LIBERALS, OBAMA, CHASE BANK were printed on the bumper.  

Piss on all those, I guess? 

Piss on faggots. Okay, we get that this guy doesn’t like gay people and prefers to refer to homosexuals by a derogatory name long since abandoned by most of civil society. 

Piss on Liberals. Okay, that could mean a lot of things. Many of the Founding Fathers were quite devout liberals, and our Constitution is by definition quite a liberal document focused on the guarantee and protection of civil rights. But piss on those too. 

Piss on Obama. Well well well. Perhaps this is getting to the core of things here. If this guy didn’t like gays and liberals, then a president that supports equal rights including those guaranteed for people of his own race, then piss on him too. 

Piss OnPretty consistent pissing so far, you might say. 

But then comes Piss On Chase Bank. Now that’s downright confusing unless your local Chase banker is a gay liberal who voted for Obama. That’s pretty hard to tell in your average teller. So the hatred for Chase must come from something deeper. Perhaps this guy is an Occupy Wall Streeter? That doesn’t make sense. Most of those folks are fairly liberal. Some people even call them socialists for seeking to have the banking industry actually abide by the existing regulations by which financial management is supposed to occur. 

The Chase is on

Interestingly enough, I had plenty of time to consider all these options as I entered traffic behind the Piss On Faggots, Liberals, Obama and Chase Bank guy. He happened to be turning the same direction as me at the next stop light. His vehicle next took a strange diagonal across the intersection. 

Another 6 blocks later his turn signal pointed where I was headed as well. This time he cut close to the curb on his turn and swung weirdly into the other lane before righting his car. I wondered if he was busy texting. Three blocks later he was turning left again, the same direction I was also headed. This time he nearly cut off the headlights of the car parked in the lane waiting to turn left. 

Perhaps he was a little spooked by now that I might be following him. He hit the gas hard through a neighborhood where I knew the speed limit was carefully monitored. The street cuts through a residential neighborhood rife with kids. Piss On Little Kids, I guess.

His frantic speed made me think that perhaps he’d seen me taking an iPhoto of his rather hateful bumper decoration and wanted to avoid any potential confrontation. But that was probably just my imagination working overtime. When he took off at high speed on the next right turn I literally gave him a wave goodbye. 

Can’t get no…no no no…

IMG_8609It struck me: What satisfaction could he possibly derive from driving his old Toyota around with that mean message on his bumper? When does one bend over and stick that little mean kid bumper sticker on there and then hand press the words FAGGOT, LIBERALS, OBAMA AND CHASE BANK onto one’s bumper? 

His satisfaction must come from expressing his hatred. Yet you can only hate so much before the satisfaction drawn from that hatred begins to drain out of you. Or perhaps he also spends nights on the Internet trolling liberal websites and posting racist or partisan comments about Obama. With a bumper crop of hatred out there perhaps it is true that the line between Blue and Red is permanent, inhumane divide. 

Human interest

Three out of four of the things Mr. Piss On claims to hate are actually human beings of one kind or another. His hatred of Chase Bank only qualifies as hatred for other human beings if you abide by the Mitt Romneyesque pandering ploy that “Corporations are people too, my friend…”

Frankly one wonders why the Piss On fellow limited his list of hated things to such a short list. Could he have not added Muslims to the list given the seemingly categorical partisan hatred of all things different than Christian, White, Straight and Republican in America. 

Piss On, Brother

As indicated by the intellectual gravity of the fellow with the Piss On logo, there’s a bumper crop of hatred out there. While people like me can and should admit our disgust with George W. Bush, and I’ve written at length and frequently about frustrations with the seeming lack of conscience in the modern (catch the irony) batch of conservative, I did not go to some truck store where they sell stickers of naughty little boys and mount them next to the words GOP or any other group of people with whom I might disagree. 

Liberals usually take the long way home and the long way around to express their opinions. Yes, there’s hatred being expressed from the liberal side as well, and I keep an eye out for liberal bumper stickers that cross the line. But you just don’t see many. Instead you might see that sticker that says COEXIST with all the religious symbols intermixed. 

What would Jesus piss on? 

But is it conservative or liberal to sport a bumper sticker that says KNOW JESUS. KNOW PEACE? That depends on how you interpret knowing Jesus, of course. Liberals would say you need to embrace the social justice aspects of his ministry and stewardship of the earth. Conservative Christians have claimed that knowing Jesus is the same as respecting God and Country. So there’s a critical divide based on interpretation of the very same words of the Bible. 

The scary part in all this is that some people might brand the list posted on the bumper of the Piss On vehicle a statement in keeping with Christian values. People who hate on homosexuals or even ‘love the sinner an hate the sin’ are effectively saying the same thing as “Piss On Faggots.” Either way the subject of the criticism is ostracized based on anachronistic interpretation of a very few bible passages. 

Going down the list, justifying conservative hatred for Obama opens some very sore wounds in America. He’s black, which opens up the entirely racist can of worms. He’s a Democrat and ostensibly a liberal, although people who disagree with his kid glove treatment of Wall Street bankers might argue with the lack of accountability demanded from financial interests that bent the law and bankrupted the country. 

Which brings us again to the very interesting subject of Chase Bank, one of the few massively large financial institutions deemed “too big to fail” lest our nation and our world economy go into turmoil. 

So our friend that wants to piss on Chase Bank either likes the bushes behind his local branch office or else he agrees with liberal economists that companies like Chase should have to straighten up and fly right or pay the penalty. 

But the question we have to ask from the perspective of the Judeo-Christian tradition is this: What would Jesus think of the Piss On bumper sticker and the hate it communicates?

Well, Jesus was not recorded as having said anything about homosexuality in the Bible. So the Piss On Faggots attitude is manufactured from something outside the words of the Son of God. 

And Jesus loved liberals because he loved himself, tender of the key liberal idea that all humans are deserving of equal rights. So that that, Mr. Piss On Liberals. Jesus thinks you suck. 

As for Obama, Jesus might call into question some of the things that Obama does. But taking steps to provide better health and human services is not one of them. Nor is protecting the environment against anthropogenic change (look it up if you don’t know what it means). And for all the hatred pointed at Obama by Tea Party Conservatives that “He’s a Muslim,” well, guess what? Jesus is a key figure in the Muslim tradition too. 

Was Jesus a greedy bugger? 

Meanwhile one of the biggest problems Jesus addressed in his ministry was the abuse of trust and love of money produced by those with greedy lack of conscience. And what do we find out there dominating conservative ideology these days? Crybabies whining about how the 1% are so persecuted.

Screeching politicians who owe their careers to political investors (you read that right…) are simply not going to behave in good conscience on behalf of the public when behind closed doors they have already shook hands and struck deals with the companies that own them. 

If Chase Bank is just a symbol for all that ugly greed, dismissal and manipulation of the social good for profit, then perhaps the Piss On guy might have a small point. 

But don’t tell him that, because he’s probably pretty sensitive about the size of his pointer, if you catch my drift. These hateful guys are always compensating for something, it seems. 

Nice hydrant, dude

Which brings us full circle to the whole reason I was parked along that road where the Piss On guy blew on past me and caught my attention with his angry, small-minded bumper sticker. 

The new fire hydrant I’m supposed to paint sticks much farther out of the ground than the original implement. That means it will make an even more inviting target for dogs to come along and piss on. I’ll be painting the new hydrant with that fact in mind. I plan to paint some targets with dog prints along the base. And I hope no dogs are offended. But that’s their business. 

Mitt Romney’s take on military spending fails the test of historical perspective

By Christopher Cudworth

An apparently pissed off Mitt Romney recently wrote an opinion piece about military spending in the PERPECTIVE section of the Chicago Tribune.

An apparently pissed off Mitt Romney recently wrote an opinion piece about military spending in the PERPECTIVE section of the Chicago Tribune.

When a seemingly devout believer in conservative philosophy finally builds up pressure inside his head from keeping his mouth shut fro a few months, it can be fun to see what pops out when the bubble bursts.

So it is that we find Mitt Romney giving his two cents in the Chicago Tribune PERSPECTIVE section in a Monday edition of the newspaper. The opinion piece, titled “What’s with Obama’s moves to slash the military?” throws around the principle concerns of most latter-day conservatives, which are worry and fear about our position in the world. He saves a few final gripes about government spending for last. 

The piece by Romney begins; “Russia invades, China bullies, Iran spins centrifuges, the Islamic State (a terrorist threat “beyond anything we’ve seen,” according to the defense secretary) threatens..and Washington slashes the military. Reason stares.”

He goes on to scold President Obama for his apparent inability to conceive or understand the nature and scale of these threats. Then Romney attempts the Ol’ Consrvative 1-2 punch by quoting Obama’s own words out of context to make him appear foolish, “Things are much less dangerous now than they were 20 years ago, 25 years ago or 30 years ago.” 

But that’s not all that Obama said, for he spoke more on the matter as quoted on the Pundit Press website,” President Obama maintains that the “truth of the matter” is the “world has always been messy. In part, we’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through.” 

Of course talk like this drives conservatives absolutely crazy because they’ve never met a crisis they could not either predict or prophesy. Well, except for 9/11 and the whole unplanned Bush-driven debacle that once was the Iraq War and now has transmogrified into a whole bunch of really pissed-off Islamic militants who are ramping up the push for a worldwide Islamic state.

Even Romney admits in his piece that “failures of imagination led to tragedy 13 years ago.” You think? How about failures to listen to simple, basic warnings about terrorist attacks and an ugly motivation to impose America’s oligarchic will on the rest of the world? Sounds a bit more like the truth, Mr. Romney. Your side screwed up and then made matters much worse by privatizing billions in military operations, sanctioned torture and conducted the entire escapade off limits from the federal budget. That’s right, Mitt, your party did not even want to be held accountable for trying to pay their way to a forced Armageddon in the Middle East to fulfill the biblical wishes of all those Red Heifer zealots dying for a chance to see Jesus come back to earth. Yes, there really were religious motivations at work in all that. 

But perhaps the Mormon faith does not buy End Times theology after all? So the Right wing has a tough time agreeing on a number of things, it seems. And these are just some of the reasons why those of us suspicious about current levels of military spending feel it’s always right to force our military to be accountable for its spending.

Yet you, Mitt Romney, seem much more concerned with slashing domestic spending than military spending. “The arguments for shrinking our military fall aside to reveal the real reason for the cut: Politicians, and many of the people who elect them, want to keep up spending here at home.” 

Yes what a terrible idea it would be to invest in in the health, education, jobs and infrastructure of America! We must suppose you have a much better idea on how to make America better? Or is it the same line Bush gave back in 2000? “Entitlements and programs are putting pressure on the federal budget: We either cut our defense, or we cut spending on ourselves. That, or raise our taxes.”

Never mind that raising the taxes on the richest Americans has led to prosperity over and over again in our nation’s history,  and that nearly every major cut on personal and corporate income taxes has led the country into recession or depression. Reagan. Bush I. Bush II. The pattern repeats itself. 

Meanwhile history and great presidents of the past give us insight on how to understand that we we need to be wise with how we fund our military lest it bankrupt the nation both fiscally and morally. 

For evidence, let us take a look at what a certain General (and President) Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) once said, “We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.”

His words encourage us to be patient and strong in our choices when it comes to military use and aggression. Eisenhower went on to explain why funding of the military was such a topic of importance: 

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military/industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

And there you have it Mitt. President Obama has not said much of any different from what Dwight D. Eisenhower said back during the days when communism was deemed a threat to our nation’s security. What we need to do is plan wisely, invest in smart military plans and options, take care to maintain domestic spending as a balance of prosperity and pay attention to our global responsibility to allies and enemies.”

From the sound of your words in comparison to those of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and our current President Barack Obama, those of us who appreciate consideration as a wise strategy for war are glad for men like these, and not so glad of men seeking to undermine their patient response to threats rather than cowboy dreams and bitter condemnations by Presidents and Vice Presidents who can’t see past their own ideology when it comes to world affairs and our military. 

A symbol for rights or privilege?

 

Keeping our heads about ISIS

On the way somewhere in the car today, I dutifully tuned into Right Wing Radio Station AM 560 to listen to what Dennis Miller had to say about something about which he generally knows nothing about. That’s what commentators like Dennis Miller do, you see. It’s their job to keep the Right stirred up about Obama and the economy and foreign policy so that the Republicans can swing the vote, take power back and go on with their policies of fighting the whole world all at once. 

None other than Charles Krauthamer was comedian Dennis Miller’s guest today. The conservative columnist has a book out. Apparently he claims he saw all this coming, this disturbance in the Middle East. That opinion pretty much puts him in alignment with every prophet, columnist and prognosticator since the Torah was written down in goat’s blood. 

Men like Krauthamer are particularly upset because the ISIS group has begun beheading Americans to get our attention and pick a fight. But that’s a little ironic, is it not?

We Americans love movies about rebels like William Wallace in Braveheart and Russell Crowe in Gladiator. It’s all well and good when some Scottish dude or a Roman gladiator lops off a few heads in battle. White guys can do that because they seem like they actually could be Christian if you look close enough or study the plot lines. 

But Lord knows we do hate it when some Muslims get jiggy with beheadings and televise them to get under our skin. Never mind that Muslims and Christians have been doing similar things to each since the Crusades and before all that. We chopped each other to pieces for years, stuck each other’s heads on pikes and didn’t solve a goddamn thing… or we wouldn’t be having this discussion now. 

What’s really sad is that according to the Koran the Muslim faith thinks the world of Jesus as a prophet and it seems like there might be some common ground right there. Fundamentalists in the Arab world have instead focused on the murderous call of jihad to craft their worldview. Meanwhile here in America our own little fundamentalist Christian movement has been at work for the last 30 years trying to rewrite the Constitution in their image and foment a revisionist view of history that America was founded as a Christian nation. 

There is the same brand of crap being thrown against the wall on both sides of the fence. Our side has not behaved much better. We tortured Iraqis when given the chance back in the early 2000s and now those actions have essentially come back to roost.

The escalation of violence by ISIS is not surprising. They know they can’t take over the world. They haven’t the equipment or the wealth or the support. But they can dream big, and taking over a country or two in the Middle East is a pretty worthy goal before they figure out they have to regroup and actually have a way to govern people who hate them just as much as they hate back. 

It’s going to blow up in their faces sooner or later. Which is why America does not need to lose our heads. If they bring their ISIS brand of bullshit to our shores it won’t be the first time we’ve been struck. But at least we’ve got a President considering all the options, including an international coalition to track and contain the ISIS threat. 

But let’s not pretend this can be solved overnight, or that it’s strictly Obama’s fault that some right wing Muslims are pissed off and trying to pick a fight. This has been going on for centuries and it will keep on happening for a long time. Our main goal is to keep our heads and force their hand. It’s unlikely they have a real plan in place to enact a caliphate. That’s pretty much a pipe dream. They can’t even make it happen in Iraq, much less America. 

We’ve calmed down Iran and kept an eye on Syria. Yes there are people dying but we have been on alert for humanitarian crises. We may err on helping too much in that way, but so be it. 

There’s no use rushing off to a war that can’t be fought. This is an ideology we’re battling, not a people. The best strategy is forcing them back on themselves. There is only so much honor among thieves and murderers who only agree on one thing, and that is killing in the name of God. 

Our Arab friends in the region and certainly Israel don’t want these kind of nuts taking over. America certainly mourns the lives of journalists serving the cause of justice by reporting the truth. Those who committed those war crimes deserve to die. But we do need to be careful that we don’t lose our collective heads and shoot ourselves in the foot. We’ve done that once before in Iraq, which is why we’re invested so deeply there now. 

Be patient. Be smart. Build a coalition. ISIS will eventually collapse under the weight of the murderous pressure they have brought upon themselves. 

 

Why I refuse to hide my years, my liberalism or my political views despite the new censorship age

by Christopher Cudworth

A close and longtime friend pulled me aside the other day with a warning of sorts. “I love you man,” he told me. “But you’ve got to stop giving people reasons not to hire you.” 

His advice is so well-intentioned. In the age of social media, your personal brand is how you sell yourself to others. Mine is all over the Internet. From LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook, Google+ to all the blogs I write. My views are out there. So is my age. Plus I effectively rank all top 10 spots on Google for the name Christopher Cudworth. 

But what people really worry about most when it comes to their personal reputation is their religious and/or political views being perceived as oppositional to all those who might want to do business with them. 

I’m not afraid of that. And here’s why. 

Nothing to fear

Who lays claim to the flag in America?My years have taught me there’s nothing to fear. Not if you truly believe in God and trust that your faith will show you the way. There is no consequence on this earth that you cannot spiritually survive. Your words and actions and beliefs may indeed cost you social or work advantages.

 

But still, people warn you not to reveal too much about your age, your viewpoints or your religion.

The Internet is full of advice on how to hide your age, as if doing so were some kind of actual job qualification.

And surely there are plenty of people who will tell you to avoid saying anything political on business social media such as LinkedIn. 

I am 57. I am a liberal. And a Christian. Or both.

Chicken to speak out?

Pretty much this brand of advice seems to be focused on connecting with people who make business choices based on religious or political views.

But it works both ways. Certainly the recent stories about Chick-Fil-A choosing to fund non-profit organizations aligned with its company views have impacted their reputation. Rightly or wrongly, consumers often choose to base their decisions on who to support based on liberal or conservative views. Then it came out that Chick-Fil-A even hires or chooses franchisees based on their core values. That seems like a pretty sound business principle. But again, they took flack for those practices because the social media flurry took off before the full breadth of the company’s policies was vetted. 

There was some debate that went on about this issue on LinkedIn and I commented about that. Advisable or not, I expressed concern that some companies might use policies like that to be exclusionary in their hiring. But it’s a gray area. According to Snopes.com, this is what actually appears on the Chick-Fil-A website as to company culture: “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.” 

Fair enough. That’s a fairly conservative enough statement about hiring practices. I mean that in the best way. It’s not Conservative in the sense that it is outlining some political view as necessary to employment. It is conservative in the sense that it advocates fair and reasonable hiring practices. There are other forms of conservative viewpoints at work in business as well. 

Creative creationist

For example, I once knew a geologist who was a devout creationist. The thought of his worldview at work in that field was astounding to me. Creationists typically view the earth as having a very limited time span. I asked the man specifically for his opinion about that. “All I care about in the job is the layers. I just need to know where things are. How old they are does not matter to me.”

I thought about those words for a long time. He’d been through all that geological education and processed it in his own fashion. He was not a man afraid to speak his mind either. At some point he likely spoke up about his beliefs. Surely some of his science education professors shouted him down if he brought up his religious views and the opinion that the earth’s geology was all the product of the Great Flood. Or whatever. Yet he’d kept true to his anachronistic worldview despite all contentions to the contrary. And he was successful in his profession. 

That’s a conservative, tried and true I suppose. He’d held his convictions and stuck to religious tradition despite all that liberal science stuff swirling around him.

Equivalence

In a similar way, I suppose, I have clung to my liberal views despite all the Conservative opinion dominating the business world. Am I, as a Liberal, the equivalent of a Creationist in the business world? Am I denying the science of economics and business. Are Harvard or Booth School MBAs gathering in coffee shops to snigger about my naive notions about business? 

Well, I can only speak from personal experience in my business dealings, where my conservative instincts have always controlled my actions.

Conservative actions

For example, when I was elected President of the Chamber of Commerce in Batavia, IL., my primary goal was to make the organization run more efficiently than it had been for years. I moved to cut the Board from 20 down to 11 members. Then I required that all events and activities of the Chamber have a budget. Surprisingly, that was a new policy to everyone. When it was all said and done, we’d also created all new marketing materials for the Chamber and provided a guarantee of a prescribed set of services to all members that helped increase the membership.

 All those could be characterized as policies indicative of a Conservative mindset. Cutting staff or representation to a manageable size, reducing waste and increasing accountability and finishing with a financial cushion, all are in line with a conservative approach to business. 

Fairness

My personal liberalism primarily enters business when it comes to issues of fairness. Because I believe, like the conservative entity known as Chick-Fil-A, that it is not just important but a requirement  “to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

At one point during my career in marketing, the organization where I worked had built a reputation for sexual harassment. A few lawsuits had been filed and won against the company. One day while riding back from lunch with co-workers a young woman began relating to us that her boss had made multiple inquiries into what she wore under her work clothes, what type of relations she had with her boyfriend and other types of sexual innuendos. I took the step of networking through a friend in law who helped her find a lawyer to represent her interests with the company. She sued and won, then left the company. 

Was that a conservative or liberal action on my part? It was both. In truth I was protecting the company’s interests while protecting the interests of the young woman subject to the harassment. I did not take matters into my own hands but providing assistance to legally assist the young woman find a recourse for her situation. 

Culture clashes

PaversBut the real issue for me was not just that young woman’s situation. The company maintained a culture of harassment in many other ways. The President made frequent statements that were designed to intimidate and offend for purposes of control. “Bring in the Design Fairies,” he once blurted while meeting with a group of creative directors. Comments like that were not complimentary to the staff, as if they were magically endowed with the ability to solve creative issues. Instead he regularly issued statements devaluing the talents of design staff, intimating that their sexuality had much to do with their station in life as lowly designers.

That rankled my liberal instincts on so many fronts it was tough to keep composure sometimes. 

Religious blows

Even bosses trying to be the pillar of conservative values can blow it sometimes as well. One director at a media company issued a written statement titled The (Company) Way, The Truth and the Light. A number of employees raised concerns that he should be using a biblical construct in the context of company policy. There was enough rumbling among the ranks that as marketing manager I brought the concerns to light in a leadership meeting that week. The reception of this feedback was less than welcome, and when someone stapled a picture of Jesus to the company memo and sent it to the corporate headquarters, the director was determined that some heads should fall. He called me into his office accusing me of sending the memo. “No one can criticize my faith,” he blustered to me. “I go to church every week!”

Indeed he did. But it did not stop him from forcing me out of the company for bringing up the issue in the first place. My liberal instincts toward free dialog and problem-solving had gotten me into trouble once again. 

Public opinion

When I accepted a job as editorial writer for a major newspaper it was with joy and expectation that we debated issues on a weekly basis. My fellow staff writers were long-experienced journalists with a highly objective bent earned from years of street and business reporting. We criticized each other’s work, which ultimately had to pass muster with the Publisher and Editors, a strong mix of leadership with both liberal and conservative views. 

We also edited for space the writing of both conservative and liberal columnists including the likes of George Will and Ann Coulter. Tasks like that help you learn to appreciate the constructs of the arguments they make, and find ways to make sure their columns do not suffer for the editing. 

Balance

So it has been with a critical eye that I have proceeded in my career while examining the conservative and liberal facets of society. We need both. But we need a balance. 

Yin and yang symbol.

That much I learned as a member of the highly conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. For 25 years our family attended services and I served on the Board, taught Sunday School and led activities for that church including 5 years in the Praise Band translating music into theology. At one point I led a search committee for a new praise leader and set some parameters for the committee at which some members bristled. “We’ll meet one hour, once a week,” I told them. “And we’ll get our business done.” 

In 8 weeks we had vetted the criteria, interviewed candidates and made a selection from amongst 8 different praise musicians. And then we waited. And waited. It took the church another four months to approve the choice. The conservative opinion was that we’d actually proceeded too quickly in doing our business. “We need time to think,” I was told. And then the backroom meetings began. It was as if the entire search enterprise had to be done all over again. Finally the hiring of our candidate was accomplished. But the experience left a sour taste in the mouths of all on the committee including the Pastor Emeritus, a 60-year veteran of Missouri Synod pastoral duties who proclaimed, during one of the meetings, “This is the best committee on which I’ve ever served.” All were in agreement.

That success was undercut by a suspicious, highly conservative worldview that believed itself better able to do the job than the committee elected to perform its duties.

Pounding fists

I’d run into that kind of logic before at the same church. We’d gone to the congregation twice already with budgets that were approved for construction of an addition using money donated by a wealthy member who died and left her fortune to the church. The church board was worried the congregation needed to hear the whole story again. I pounded my fist on the table and barked, “It’s already approved. We need to move forward.” The Pastor pulled me aside the next Sunday and thanked me for having the courage to speak up. We built the new addition and moved forward. It wasn’t a risk to do all that. We’d already done all the work necessary to guide and improve the plans.

So that raises an interesting question: Was I too liberal for wanting to move forward rather than remain stuck in our cycle of constant equivocation? I’m not afraid to take risks. I’m not afraid to propose creative ideas. I’m not afraid to pound my fist on the table and demand progress, productivity and accountability. 

Consideration

photo (1)I do however respect and appreciate the need for review and consideration before action. That’s why I like the foreign and domestic policy of our current President, Barack Obama. He thinks about what he does before doing it. Our country has not embarked on any new ideological war games as a result. Supporting that kind of conservative, considerate approach makes me a liberal according to some. Some call it namby pamby wimpass liberal stuff. I call it intelligent reasoning and a moderate approach to international challenges. The forces we’re fighting in the Middle East have been there for 800 years or more. We’re not going to solve them overnight. That’s not conservative or liberal. Flailing around for quick solutions is just dumb. We’ve already tried that and look how Iraq turned out. 

So it disturbs me that some people might sit out there in judgment of my political views as too liberal when in fact they are much more conservative in nature than liberal. I think the same way about the environment and conservation. Protecting the earth is a conservative, not a liberal thing to do. 

Liberal faith

I also think that way about matters of faith, where social justice and working to provide equal rights to all comes first. That worldview aligns precisely with the biblical truth of Jesus Christ. From what I’ve read––and I’ve read the Bible cover to cover several time over, studied it groups and read hundreds of books on the topic o faith–– my liberalism aligns with the core truths of all religions except where conservative ideology steps in to make rules about how to live and who to tolerate. That’s an ugly form of conservatism that has led to Nazi Germany, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades and the KKK. Not all conservatives are extreme of course. But it does makes me wonder why anyone is willing to call themselves conservative without first taking a close and studied look at what that means now and what it has meant in the past. Even the conservative wing of the Catholic Church has been repeatedly wrong about things, including the position of the earth in the solar system, for one notable mistake. 

Conservative consequences

When you examine what so-called modern conservatism has wrought the last ten years it makes you wonder why anyone would be proud to call themselves conservative at all. Or perhaps they’re not really getting their point across to the people in power. The Bush administration ran amok with wars and de-regulating the economy, reducing taxes and pushing constrictive policies on American education. Conservatives seemed to say nothing about all that. 

Yet when the economy tanked thanks to all that reckless behavior it was liberals who stepped in to mop up the mess and put things back in order. We’re not out of the woods by any measure. The economy could still tank. But that’s not a product of liberal policy. That’s a product of refusal to change or require accountability of organizations acting out of control in the financial world. That world is still run primarily by financial conservatives who bristle at governmental intrusion. 

Holdouts and bailouts

What was the first response of banks and lending institutions following the economic crash? They refused to lend money even to successful businesses. That was not some liberal scheme. In fact some wondered if it was a conservative punishment doled out in response to the election of a supposedly liberal president. 

That President bailed out the auto industry and put strict controls in place to restore and revitalize American auto companies. Those were highly disciplined, conservative measures to require accountability. 

Ageless principles

IMG_6475So I simply don’t buy the idea that it is my responsibility to apologize for my liberal background and beliefs. I also don’t buy that I’m too old at 57 years of age to be a contributing member of society or a business leader. Most of our Presidents and business leaders don’t become CEOs or leading politicians until their 50s and 60s. 

Yet we’re told all the time that we have to hide our age on our resumes lest a company be discouraged from hiring us. I say bullshit. It’s not my problem that my experience and my creativity are at an all-time peak. Some companies don’t want to hire people like me because they think people my age too expensive compared to hiring some younger candidate. I’m all for that too, if it fits the bill. But from an employee’s perspective you can’t buy experience or learn how to effectively apply creativity to creating business solutions. That comes with time. 

And do we actually think we can hide our age in this day and age? Do we think hiring managers and HR directors are so stupid they can’t do a simple Google search and find out when you graduated from college? Give. Me. A. Break. 

So-called “Age-Proofing” your resume is a game no one should play. The companies and hiring managers that use age as a determining factor in hiring are literally breaking the law. Do you want to work for a company that willingly breaks the law as a matter of its business practices? That’s the question and the challenge we should be putting to all businesses. Why do you think its okay to carry on with those practices when they are against the law? 

3C Creative Content

So I’m running my own little business now and it’s going okay especially because I’m able to purchase reasonably priced health insurance thanks to Obamacare. I’m even improving my policy some now that the company is moving forward. I wanted to do this years ago but couldn’t because my wife had ovarian cancer and we could not buy insurance on our own because her pre-existing condition precluded us from doing so. Obamacare changed all that. For now. 

Because we hear all kinds of conservative politicians threatening to “roll back Obamacare” if the Senate goes Red. But do they know what they’re really talking about? I don’t think so. The liberal convictions of that law are providing safety and security in health care to millions of people. Society has not collapsed since the law was installed. In fact millions of Americans including small business owners like me––and I employ my 24-year-old daughter as well––can now get health insurance and run their business without worrying that they can’t get insured. 

To me that sounds a lot like the American Dream and the American Way. Which is liberal. Defined as: 

  1. broad-minded: tolerant of different views and standards of behavior in others
  2. progressive politically or socially: favoring gradual reform, especially political reforms that extend democracy, distribute wealth more evenly, and protect the personal freedom of the individual
  3. generous: freely giving money, time, or some other asset

Yet we hear advice all the time, “Don’t be too political” or “Don’t discuss religion” online or in public because people won’t hire you if you express your opinions. I say that’s an insidious form of new censorship. It’s not why I’m alive. Or you. Or anyone. This is America. Expressing opinions is healthy even if they’re wrong. That’s the only way you learn. 

Do you want an employee who just sits there in company meetings and refuses to contribute because they’re afraid something they say might appear stupid or be wrong? That doesn’t help anyone. And do you want an employee who kisses your ass simply to get ahead or do you want an associate who can challenge you to better things, better ideas and better profitability? All those are liberal, not conservative instincts. And they make better employees. 

Liberal lectures

So you can lecture me all you want about how liberals like me don’t fit into the business world. You can tell me I’m told old (though I can likely kick your ass on the bike and in a race…can you do a 12:00 two mile?) or getting slow or “too set in our ways. 

What a load of fucking crap. Never in the history of the human race has there been a generation of people more willing to experiment and redefine themselves, learn new technology and adapt to circumstances. That extends from the youngest kids in the workforce to the oldest. Everyone’s learning. The only ones unwilling to learn and change are those too conservative to try. That’s why I’m a liberal too. 

True Convictions

I believe that Jesus loved people like me for the willingness to take on injustice in the workplace, to respect the time of others and to make decisions with a conscience clear of political ramifications and conniving conservatism. Jesus hated all that rot and told the Pharisees to go choke on it. 

They hung him on a cross to try to shut him up. But somehow things didn’t work out that way. His liberal, radical message of spiritual creativity lives on to this day. It is ours to keep it alive in the face of those who think rules and power and control and money are more important than knowing love, and loving life. That includes loving what you do in the workplace. 

I’ve written a book about the process of loving life, and living it well in the face of considerable obstacles. It’s called The Right Kind of Pride. It focuses on what it’s like to get through cancer as patient and caregiver. But it’s about much more than that. It’s about the balance of conservative and liberal instincts that make it possible to thrive. 

I’m always going to be proud to be a liberal. Life has not made me more cynical or apt to hew conservatively as if being cranky and controlling is the sign of a more realistic outlook.

If being more open-minded yet practically focused exclude me from doing the job for you, then it’s your loss. I know for a fact that I can do a great job on anything I set out to do. I’m confident of that, and I’ve proven it, and no amount of supposed discouragement can keep me from moving ahead. 

The Genesis Fix.